Israel May Compensate Family of Lynched Eritrean Asylum Seeker, AG Says

Haftom Zarhum was lynched at a terror attack in Be'er Sheva; the State Prosecutor intends to charge two of the assailants.

Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer
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The death of Haftom Zarhum has united the African migrant community in Israel.
The death of Haftom Zarhum has united the African migrant community in Israel.Credit: AFP
Sharon Pulwer
Sharon Pulwer

The State Prosecutor’s Office intends charging two of the four people suspected of being involved in the lynching of an Eritrean asylum seeker in Be’er Sheva last week.

The two, Prison Service officer Ronen Cohen and warden Hanania Shabat, have been summoned to a hearing, during which they may be charged with deliberately causing bodily harm. A third suspect, Evyatar Damati, has been called to the police station today, ahead of being summoned to a hearing .

“It seems very strange to me that the prosecution intends to press charges against my client, in view of his explanations that are in keeping with the special circumstances at the time of the terror attack,” said Cohen’s attorney Ido Porat.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein said yesterday that the state may compensate the family of Haftom Zarhum, the asylum seeker who was shot and beaten to death, despite his not being an Israeli citizen.

Weinstein was speaking to a Defense Ministry committee set up some 15 years ago to compensate victims of hostility and terror acts who are not covered by the existing law.

Zarhum, who was on his way to pick up a visa, was killed after he was mistaken for a terrorist at the Be’er Sheva bus terminal. Shot several times by a security guard, he was subsequently kicked and beaten by a mob.

Victim entered Israel illegally

Since Zarhum entered Israel illegally, he is not eligible for compensation under the indemnity law applying to hostility victims.

Weinstein told the committee that it was authorized to discuss granting compensation to a victim of an event “whose main purpose was to cause bodily injury to a man due to his national affiliation.” Zarhom was killed in such an incident, he said.

The law recognizes a person as a victim of hostility if he is mistakenly injured by fire “due to an act of hostility by enemy forces.” It explicitly states that “a victim of hostility acts” must be an Israeli resident or citizen, or someone who entered Israel legally. That was not the case Zarhum.

However, it will not be the first time a foreign citizen is recognized as a victim of hostile acts.

A source in the Defense Ministry said that a Thai worker who had been killed by a mortar shell in the Hof Ashkelon Council during the war in Gaza had been recognized as such a victim, because he had entered Israel on a special permit.

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